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Indigenous Medicine Workshop

Wed. Mar. 9, 2016

Osh Ki ma chi say (New Beginning): Conversations with Elders on Indigenous Medicine and Science

The IS department with the support of, and in collaboration with, the Office of the Associate Vice-President Indigenous Affairs and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) organized a workshop focussed on bridging Indigenous medicinal knowledge and elders with science and academy. The workshop was held on February 12, 2016 in the Richardson College Atrium and was attended by 45 participants including 17 students, 11 elders, nine faculty members and five representatives from senior administration from UWinnipeg, seven practitioners/community-based institutional representatives and three young apprentice healers.

In an informal talking circle format, participants identified challenges including the following:

  • differential worldviews and interests between many western-trained academics and Indigenous knowledge holders,

  • diverse world-views and perspectives among Indigenous medicinal knowledge holders themselves, and

  • a lack of sensitivity and understanding of appropriate cultural protocols in recognizing and incorporating learning from Indigenous medicinal plant knowledge into formal curriculum.

Participants acknowledged that respect and recognition of the holistic and spiritually-embedded nature of Indigenous medicinal knowledge are needed. As well, they suggested that active partnerships need to be cultivated with willing elders in order to determine the ways and means by which Indigenous knowledge can be brought into academic settings.

The participants also shared ideas and issues that an academic institution like UW should take into account for respectful braiding of Indigenous knowledges into curriculum. One suggestion was the development of a new Masters program, or the modifying existing programs, at UWinnipeg by recognizing elders as active mentors and guides in student thesis/practicum. Many elders also expressed the importance of having similar workshops and conversations on this topic in the future.

Dr. Shailesh Shukla is assistant professor in the Department of Indigenous Studies. His teaching and research interests include indigenous knowledge systems, indigenous and traditional foods, food sovereignty, ethnoecology, participatory governance, community-based conservation, intergenerational transmission and learning within indigenous knowledge systems, critical social science and mixed research methods.